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George McCorkle

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George McCorkle Obituary
For the man who wrote so famously about moving his family away from their Carolina home, as he roamed toward dreams of the West and gold in the hills, the search for the rainbow is complete. Founding Marshall Tucker Band guitarist, songwriter and Spartanburg native George McCorkle, who composed one of the band's biggest hit songs, "Fire on the Mountain," died in Nashville Friday morning. Recently diagnosed with cancer, he was 60 years old. According to McCorkle's Web site at www.georgemccorkle.com, he "will be transported via tour bus for his last ride home to Spartanburg, where he will be laid to rest with his family, Toy, and Tommy Caldwell." Visitation is from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Monday at Floyd's Greenlawn Chapel, 2075 E. Main St., with burial following at 11 a.m. at Greenlawn Memorial Gardens, 1300 Fernwood-Glendale Road. A revered rhythm guitarist, McCorkle's percussive and textural rhythm guitar was a fundamental component of the band's sound, lending elements of blues, R&B and funk to a signature rhythmic pulse and distinctive Southern-rock sound. Original Marshall Tucker Band drummer Paul Riddle, in a phone interview from his Spartanburg home, said he could not say enough about McCorkle's contributions to the group. "They were huge," he said. "It was such an integral part of our overall sound, without question." "He allowed me to just express myself completely, and Toy as well, but he loved doing that, and that was his role and he loved his role and that's why it sounded so good." Riddle said he, along with a couple of close friends, were able to visit McCorkle on Tuesday. "He was just completely overwhelmed to see us," he said. "We got to laugh and cry for a minute and say our goodbyes and leave." McCorkle is the third of the original band members to pass away. Bassist Tommy Caldwell was killed in auto accident in 1980, and his brother, guitarist and songwriter Toy Caldwell died in 1993. Alongside guitar legend Toy Caldwell, McCorkle formed an extraordinarily formidable guitar duo, with the two men complementing one another tastefully rather than competing. "No one on this planet could have played with Toy Caldwell the way George McCorkle played with him," Riddle said. "You can't teach someone how to play (like that). I mean, you've got to be able to play, but it's an attitude, man." "He was a blue-collar, working man guitar player," Riddle said, adding that the band's cohesiveness stemmed especially from their common background and experiences. "It's just his history," he added. "He and Tommy and Toy grew up down the street from each other." Vocalist Doug Gray, via telephone from Mississippi where the current Marshall Tucker Band prepared for a concert last night, said they would dedicate the show to McCorkle and would perform "Fire on the Mountain." He said he believed with McCorkle's passing that people would begin to recognize the sheer magnitude of his talent. "A lot of people won't realize how good George was, unfortunately, until after he's gone," he said. Gray emphasized how impressed he was with McCorkle's creative abilities. "George was quite the songwriter," he said. "He liked to sit and write songs, and those kinds of people tend to be a little different and a little special, just like Toy was; they're all special people." "He let his music speak for itself," Riddle said, speaking to McCorkle's humility as well to his musical strength. "And, man, he was writing some incredible songs." And while McCorkle may have passed on, he joins the legendary ranks of those musicians whose work will live on far beyond their own lifetime. Riddle spoke to the timelessness artists recognize in the recording process. "The beauty of recording is it never goes away," he said. "I think that's why we all get a little nervous when that red (recording) light comes on." Gray said he sees McCorkle's personal and artistic legacies slightly differently, however. "The people that really got to know him understood that he was kind," he said, "and that is why he is having such an outpouring now." "The people that knew the music, and not George, appreciate the kind of songs that he wrote because it actually came through in his lyrics."
Published in Spartanburg Herald-Journal on June 29, 2007
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